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Almost 5 years ago to this day Stack Overflow published an acknowledgement to a long standing issue within the community in their post titled Stack Overflow Isn’t Very Welcoming. It’s Time for That to Change.

But has it? Really?

What are your thoughts reading this blog post, please leave a comment.

I’ve been a member of Stack Overflow for many many years in various guises. And over the years I’ve been ever more disengaged and disgruntled with the community on there. It’s such a shame, as it’s actually quite a handy platform if it weren’t for some members of the community. I don’t wish to tarnish the great people out there in the community who have genuinely helped me and others along the way. Hat’s off to you, the good people in the community provide real value.

I’m not going to listing all the problems about Stack Overflow in this blog post, simply do a quick Google search for “stack overflow community known problems” and you’ll soon see results including words such as “toxic”.

So I’m writing this blog post to ask Stack Overflow… Have you really changed?

What do you think as someone reading this blog post and is a user of Stack Overflow?

In a recent discussion with moderators on SO, I’ll post the full chat below for transparency, but the summary is that you have to only ask good questions (whatever that means…), and you can’t provide answers that the moderators disagree with, and content censorship is ripe.

Personally, I’d say the community is probably more toxic today than it has been in years. So I’m not seeing any positive change off the back of their acknowledgement 5 years ago of the problem.

Full transcript…..

Moderator Private Message
from moderators
sent yesterday
Michael Cropper’s user avatar
Michael Cropper

We’re writing in reference to your Stack Overflow account:

Some of your recent interactions with other community members have violated our Code of Conduct. We get it; anyone who’s ever tried to engage with others online has probably been tempted to lash out at someone else. However, on our sites, we do require all participants to interact in a professional and civil manner. If another user has wronged you in some way, please do not respond in kind. Simply flag the content for moderator attention and move on.

In particular, we would like to call out the following interactions as being problematic and having contributed to sending this message:

“Not a gripe on your question as you clearly don’t know the basics (you will in time young Padawan…) but…. JavaScript Frameworks that aim to “simplify” things are just useless. You can’t skip the foundations.

Don’t take this personally, but if you don’t know this, you probably shouldn’t be using a JavaScript framework such as Express.js (or any other!). Using these kinds of frameworks is only going to hinder your growth and learning experience. Express.js (amongst many others) will probably be dead in the next few years and everyone is onto the next flavour of a JavaScript framework that has equally as many problems.”

“Given up with D3 JS. I’ve just been blocked from their community Q&A for asking questions similar to this (and other similar ones) for a basic working example. Only asking on StackOverflow because their official support channels are so bad.

Thanks for the people who have been trying to help on StackOverflow, much appreciated and some great ideas that have helped to try various solutions (Even though ultimately none of them worked, if only D3 could provide a pure JavaScript example without the reliance on JavaScript Template Literals, but they don’t have that…).

Not going to be exploring D3 further in any way at all based on the way I’ve been treated from their official support channels. Absolute bunch of clowns. If can’t get a basic HelloWorld example working, zero chance of a commercial conversation.”

You’ve left several of these “commentary answers”, and in the last instance, you made a screenshot of the answer that was deleted for not really being an answer. We expect answers to answer the question. If you want to comment, you have the commenting privilege. In addition, please don’t comment on how or little knowledge you think question posters have. Such assumptions never end well.

Please refrain from this behavior in the future. We take the Code of Conduct very seriously and we encourage you to take a moment now to review it. We’d like you to not only consider your intent, but also the impact your interactions are having on others. And while we hope it’s unnecessary, we want to make sure that you’re aware that future incidents of this type could result in your profile being suspended.

Stack Overflow Moderation Team

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Michael Cropper
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More fun from the SO community #FacePalm. Unfortunately this is why both I and many others disengage because it’s painful to engage. There are so many judgemental people in this community it’s such a shame as it actually isn’t helpful and this moderator message is a prime example of this in action.

Community downvoting things for no reason for a “bad question” – There is no such thing as a bad question. When did SO become a Q&A when someone asks “I want an apple” and someone gets downvoted for saying “Have you thought about having a banana as part of your 5 a day” These types of basic blindly asking and answering questions help no-one in the long run without context – copying and pasting code snippets as answers does not help the person asking the question for them to have a deeper understanding of why.

There are some really helpful people on SO, but it’s tainted by so many idiots unfortunately, and often in mod/senior positions controlling the content about what is acceptable and what isn’t. And the fact that this message is coming through is unfortunately part of the problem. Don’t take it personally, I don’t know any of you folk in the CC. I’m sure you’re all great folk, but honestly, this message just makes me disengage further from SO.

As for the question re. the JS Framework. I stand by that as a good solid answer that is going to help the person asking the question to move forward in their understanding. You may disagree, that’s your choice. I can’t even find that question any more on the site, probably because some other mod decided it was also a bad question to ask and has since removed it. Pretty awful behaviour to do this to a noob asking the question from memory (or the search function is awful and I can’t find the question again…). It’s best for the person asking the question to determine if the answer is good or not, not some mod hiding behind an alias and a keyboard.

As for the D3 JS question. That was MY question, and if it’s frowned upon to provide an honest answer to my own question, then there is no hope left in the world of SO. I don’t know how anyone other that me could accept an answer to my own question. You may not agree with my answer to my question, and that’s your choice. Doesn’t mean it’s a bad answer just because you don’t like it.

As for the SO mods censoring content… I mean… that also never really ends well with censorship.

Honestly though, this chat is just the final straw for me with SO. I will not be answering or commenting on anything for anyone else in the community to help them unless it directly helps me. It’s such a shame because I’ve always taken the mindset of pay it forward. If I get something from SO, then I try to take some time out of my day and provide a few insights and help others out along the way answering questions that I can help get them moving in the right direction – sorry if that’s not in the specific way you like but quite frankly if you are criticising someone for providing value then you’ve lost the plot as a platform. Unfortunately I won’t be doing that any more. Feels as though I’m wasting my time engaging with SO.

Good luck with the future. I’ll probably just engage with ChatGPT from this point forward, at least it doesn’t answer back and judge.

SO seriously needs to look deep and hard at the mods throughout this platform if it has any hope of surviving in the future.

Seems like nothing has really changed in 5 years…..



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Michael Cropper

Founder & Managing Director at Contrado Digital Ltd
Michael has been running Contrado Digital for over 10 years and has over 15 years experience working across the full range of disciplines including IT, Tech, Software Development, Digital Marketing, Analytics, SaaS, Startups, Organisational and Systems Thinking, DevOps, Project Management, Multi-Cloud, Digital and Technology Innovation and always with a business and commercial focus. He has a wealth of experience working with national and multi-national brands in a wide range of industries, across a wide range of specialisms, helping them achieve awesome results. Digital transformation, performance and collaboration are at the heart of everything Michael does.